October 31, 2012 in Idaho

Idaho liable for damaged, lost laptops under contract

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Idaho’s newly inked $182 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard Co. for laptop computers for its high school students contains a surprising feature – the state won’t actually own the computers, and if they’re lost, damaged or stolen, it’ll have to pay HP for them.

The contract price is $292.77 per year per laptop, with each unit on a four-year replacement schedule. Over the four years, the state would pay $1,171 per unit.

In the contract, HP agrees to provide a full manufacturer’s warranty on the laptops for four years. If the hard drive went out in the third year, for example, they’d replace it. But they wouldn’t cover accidental loss, damage or theft.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said the state doesn’t expect much in the way of such losses. “In speaking with other schools and the state of Maine that have fully implemented one-to-one programs, they estimate just about 1 percent of devices a year, if even that, must be replaced or repaired outside the warranty,” she said. “We do not believe Idaho will be any different.”

Supplying every Idaho high school student with a laptop computer is a centerpiece of Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s Students Come First school reform plan, which goes before voters next week in three ballot measures. If voters reject Proposition 3, the laptop contract would be canceled.

Luna has touted the contract as a bargain for the state.

A copy of the contract was obtained by The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday under the Idaho Public Records Law.

“This is a very comprehensive, full-service agreement,” Luna said last week when he announced the contract. “On an annual basis that works out to less than 2 percent of what we spend every year on our K-12 education system.”

However, the costs are considerably higher than Luna originally estimated. In 2011, when he first proposed the plan to bring the state to a “1-to-1 ratio” of computers to high school students, Luna and his staff estimated the cost at $60.8 million for five years. When costs for improving the wireless infrastructure were added in, the figure rose to $70.8 million. At that rate, the eight-year contract would only be $113 million, nearly 40 percent less.

Leslie Fiering, research vice president for Gartner Inc., a major information technology consulting firm based in Stamford, Conn., said a lease deal is not unusual, and Idaho’s

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